Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Beginning Genealogy

Do you know when or how your interest in genealogy was sparked? I have had many people ask me how long I've been doing genealogical research and what caused my interest in it. While I'm admitting to being Medicare age, I am also admitting to starting an interest in genealogy at age nine.

A teacher assigned a class project of tracing family history, complete with names and dates, as far back as we could in a limited amount of time. The assignment brought tears to my eyes which increased in severity as I walked home after school. I had seen my grandparents at age three and could not remember what they looked like, let alone the family history. From an old chest of drawers my mother pulled some yellowed papers from the Lewis Family Reunion which was held annually for many years in northwest North Carolina. In my grandmother's handwriting were details of the family as told at the reunion in the 1920s. Those people knew people far back on my family tree.

Working on the project seemed easy and yet very interesting as I compared dates to what I was learning in history. Proudly I turned in my assignment and smiled when I learned that I had a good paper.

As I grew older, I kept working on various family lineages, asking questions and seeking answers. Those were the day when we relied on letters. People didn't have access to photocopy machines, let alone computers and scanners. It was a slow process, but worth every minute of it.

The family historian in my Lewis family was my Great Aunt, Bertha Lewis Mahala. She was a school teacher in her younger years, with her husband Ed lived in Ashe Co., North Carolina and had no children. Aunt Bertha showed me an old family tree covering huge pieces of paper. she showed me family heirlooms and told me stories about our family, as well as taking me with her to old graveyards. As I became a teenager, I delighted in old photographs, particularly the one here of Aunt Bertha. How I longed to have her long curls!

If anybody can be blamed for my continuing interest in genealogy, it's Aunt Bertha. There were other people along the way who were instrumental and helpful. One thing led to another, such as taking genealogy classes, reading and more reading, learning about historical documents, geography and putting ancestors into the puzzle of time.

I am sure you will also agree it is a never ending process. As more records become available, the more we have to check and hope for positive results. I think often of Aunt Bertha and wonder what she would have thought about computers, scanners, photocopy machines and cell phones. Maybe it is as well she lived in a slower world and I was also part of it.


Greta Koehl said...

I love to read about how other people got interested in genealogy. You were so smart and so lucky to have gotten interested at a young age and to have had an Aunt Bertha to help you. I have a Lewis line, too; mine went from Loudon, Virginia to Anderson, South Carolina. Have you ever seen the materials referred to as "Lewisiana"?

RBarham said...

Hi Genealines,

I couldn't find a way to email you, but I wanted to contact you about a genealogy awards project we're running at If you can drop me an email at, I'd really appreciate it. (feel free to delete this comment once you get it!)